Saturday, February 27, 2010

...friends's support, private space and Unabomber ...

While doing her own research my friend Marion found a video which relates to my project's topic. It's here. I started e-digging and found their website. The piece, however it might look like one, is not a display on the floor. It is based on projection! Both camera tracking movement and the projector are hanging above. Those are connected to a PC computer running custom software for tracking peoples' movements and generating Vonroi diagram projected back on the floor.

This intriguing piece of art, called 'Boundary Functions', was created by Scott Snibbe, American interactive media artist, researcher and entrepreneur. It reflects on perception of one's personal space. By projecting the Vonroi diagram lines, it attempts to materialize the notion of intangible boundaries existing between people. What is particularly interesting for me, this installation is functional only with more than one person present. It is exactly the effect that I was hoping to achieve in the IV idea for final project! I wanted to encourage people to interact between each other in order to fully appreciate an interactive piece. The deeper meaning would be making a statement that these are in fact other human beings that matter in terms of interactions, not technology itself. It is, so far, my strong conviction :-)

One more reflection...
...I read the description of
'Boundary Functions' and, to my amazement, I found out that the piece was named after Theodore Kaczynski's 1967 Phd thesis at the University of Michigan. Yes, the last name sounds Polish, indeed. Kaczynski was born in a second generation of Polish-Americans, but it is not the most important part. To those who haven't come across his name so far - Theodore Kaczynski is better known as Unabomber and was responsible for sending over a dozen of bombs to targets including universities and airlines. In his 'Unabomber Manifesto' he argued that 'his bombings were extreme but necessary to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom necessitated by modern technologies requiring large-scale organization'.

The installation 'Boundary Functions' derives its message from the case of Kaczynski as an example of 'the conflict and compromise of engaging in society versus solitude and individuality uncompromised by the thoughts or presence of others'. Hmmm... the description of the piece took me to another level of understanding it. I have to admit, I like the message. However, I get to a point of a tiny conflict. On one hand, having worked with photography for a long time, I highly appreciate if the piece explains itself. On the other hand, although tend to explore deeper meanings in things around me, there was not a hope that I would 'guess' artist's concept behind 'Boundary Functions' without reading the piece's description! OK, Google does mention T.J.Kaczynski: Boundary Functions at the 3rd place for Boundary Functions search. So you say, if I investigated enough, I would find out the connection. I'm afraid, I still wouldn't. Kaczynski is quite popular Polish last name and I wouldn't guess immediatly that 'T.J.' stands for 'Theodore John'... and I wouldn't suspect Unabomber to have anything in common with an interactive installation! Am I not smart enough? Or maybe contemporary interactive pieces do require a bit of background explanation for audience, to fully appreciate the concept? I remember more in-gallery situations when my initial puzzlement disappeared thanks to even short explanation of the concept. Interesting issue...

Btw. Maybe I wasn't an intellectual child prodigy, but I had no major problems while learning; I am kind of 1st generation of Irish-Polish; I would love to do PhD; I did read Thoreau's 'Walden' ; I do like sending real letters; next week we have Arduino workshop and this is how my first attempts with Arduino during Tweak looked like:

Don't worry!!! I believe that smiling and talking to people can be more powerful that bombs... and I believe in satyagraha :-)

Oki doki... does anyone know by any chance, where is LiteFoot in this post?!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

...meeting people helps...

I had a lovely pizza-making evening with some of the MusTech guys :-) I also met there a really nice girl that is currently doing Master course in dance!!! I talked to her a bit about my project and got a positive response. Hopefully, I'll be able to cooperate with one of the dancers towards completion of my project.

This proves how important socializing is! :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

...what a coincience...

While working on video footage for artistic installation (for Contemporary Art In the Public Realm module) I found a very interesting piece of recording. In the pile of VHS tapes, DAT tapes and DVDs given to my group, there was a recording of... Catherine Foley dancing on a Litefoot! :-)

I believe it is a sign :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Mobility is an interesting subject in design and computing. However, it is not particularly related to my Litefoot-based project. 1.76 meter square and 10 centimetres high piece of the interactive floor doesn't seem to fit well into the concept of 'mobility' but one thing that comes to my mind. If we imagine Litefoot floor as a part of equipment of performance centres, there could be a possibility of travelling just with software - designed to display e.g. particular visual effects. If we compare travelling with software to the situations where performers travel with their own decorations, it could be just another way of doing things. I am aware that it sounds like wishful futuristic predictions... but you never know.

Here is a mind map in which I tried to capture interesting for me aspects of mobility

Monday, February 15, 2010

...hopefully 'THE' FYP proposal...

I usually have hundreds ideas a minute, therefore all previous posts and sketches. I had a serious brainstorming going on in my head during the first semester.

After lecture regarding final projects I was inspired by the Litefoot. I had seen Litefoot video before and really enjoyed the idea. When I heard that technology within Litefoot may be updated and the develepoment of the prototype may be moved a step further, I felt it might be a very interesting project for me to continue.

The idea behind my project is resurgence of Litefoot interactive floor that was initially developed at the University of Limerick by M. Fernstrom and Niall Griffith in 1997 ( My project will involve reusing hardware in the existing LiteFoot sensor floor, replacing the old microcontroller with Arduino and designing new PD/GEM based object to capture/sonify/visualize the movement.
As another friend from my class is interested in working with LiteFoot, we could possibly work on the hardware together. However, we have different intentions of using LiteFoot armed in newer technology.

I would like to make it possible for a dancer to use LiteFoot as a tool enhancing audience‘s experience of the dance performance. I want to be able to get not only X and Y coordinates from the floor surface, but also Z coordinate of the vertical axis and map them to certain parameters of sound or graphics. I’m also considering using other sensors, which a dancer could wear, that would help them establish more direct link between their performance and visual or auditory display. My aim would be to find the balance between control allowed for a dancer and randomness of effects created by software.

As I do not have programming background it is difficult to for me to imagine, at this stage, the exact effect that I would like to achieve. I usually pick up new skills fairly easy so hopefully with a certain amount of guidance I can build up my programming ability.
As a final stage of my work I imagine setting up a contemporary dance performance. It will require collaboration with a dancer during development of the project and their participation in the final piece.

...FYP idea IV...

The fourth idea was dealing with changing interaction from human focusing on technology and isolating from other people to human interacting with other people to explore technology.

I was interested in constructing a half-transparent screen that would display fractal-like graphics only if touched in the same area from both sides. This device, displayed e.g. in the art gallery, would encourage people to interact and plan interaction with the screen to acquire the effect of graphical animation. Nowadays, technology so often isolates people from each other. This project would work towards facilitating communication between people in order to benefit from technology. It could be done using motion tracking equipment on both sides of the screen and e.g. Open Framework software.

...FYP idea III...

My third idea also involved generating some sounds. I was thinking of creating an area where a lot of ‚cables‘ would hang of the ceiling (or some construction above people’s heads). When one enters the area, different sounds would be generated depending on the way that person moves the cables .

...FYP idea I and II...

Initially I was thinking of developing a device facilitating some therapies e.g. helping in children development. I even contacted one specialist in pedagogy, who I could possibly consult in terms of the specialistic knowledge. Unfortunately, due to the distance in space and busy schedule of my friend, I had to give up that idea.

I started looking at my other interests and ways of combining them with sound. One was – humanities esp. issues of ethics. I had always been interested in the contept of truth, lies and reasons for the latter. I imagined a situation when a person is exposed to a number of questions, some of them touching very private issues, and has to give the answers ‚yes‘ or ‚no‘. No one is witnessing the answers, but at the same time, through a polygraph like device impulsed are being sent to the computer. Those could be then transformed, according to a certain key, into musical expression.

I was hoping to create some musical composition of the collection of data from various people – ‚symphony of liars‘.

I really like this idea, although I think it touches too delicate issues and might meet a lot of negative reactions. I gave up working on this as the final project, I might think about it in future, though.

Monday, February 8, 2010

...visual thinking: part I - mind mapping...

Today I had a presentation about Mind Maps, as the first part of the Visual Thinking presentation we prepared together with Rachel.

Mind mapping is a useful technique developed by Tony Buzan. It helps to activate ones brain and can be used for many different purposes: learning, self-reflection, brainstorming etc. Buzan wrote many books, not only on mind mapping but also speed reading, mnemonics etc. In this video on YouTube he describes basic rules behind mind mapping. I believe that by practicing drawing mind maps one can actually master this technique following Buzan's rules. However, as usually, I would like to adapt his concept slightly - 'one word per branch' rule does not always work for me... and I also like to limit the colours range a bit.

Here is my personal mind map on mind mapping :-)

We finished today's lecture with a little mind map drawing exercise: we formed pairs, went downstairs to the canteen and while enjoying tea, coffee and chitchat, each person created mind map about their assigned partner. I hope the group enjoyed the activity. Their created awesome mind maps which has been displayed on the back wall of iMedia Lab :-)

I encourage everyone to try and draw a few mind maps e.g. about themselves, their interests, their plans for following months etc. You can find plenty of online tutorials showing how to draw mind maps. I like this particular video explaining the basics. The most important piece of advice: do not be afraid of the white blank page in front of you! Those who are not keen on hand drawings might try one of the available mind mapping software :-) Good Luck!

More resources on Visual Thinking on our Wiki page.